The German reformer Martin Luther, who once said that the Church of Rome was “the most lawless den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death and hell,” will now have a square named after him in the Eternal City.
On September 16, the city of Rome will officially name a square on the Viale Fortunato Mizzi, several blocks from the Coliseum, as the Piazza Martin Lutero.
The request to dedicate a plaza to Luther was made in 2009 in view of the upcoming fifth centenary of Luther’s arrival in Rome by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy, together with the Union of 7th Day Adventist Christian churches.
City authorities have announced that the piazza will be surmounted by a plaque reading in Italian, “Martin Luther Square – German theologian (1483-1546).”
As an Augustinian monk, Martin Luther traveled to Rome in 1510 to bring a letter of complaint about a domestic dispute within the order. According to tradition, Luther took the opportunity to visit the city, making the rounds of the holy places.
Biographers disagree about the effect the trip had on Luther, with some arguing that he went back disgusted by the corruption and relaxation of morals of the court of Pope Julius II (1503-1513), and others claiming that the journey had no particular influence on his future actions.
One way or the other, seven years later, on October 31, 1517, Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, which would ignite the Protestant Reformation.
“I am very pleased that our request has become reality before the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017,” said the dean of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy, Pastor Heiner Bludau.
“To dedicate a square in Rome to the great reformer is a momentous step of symbolic value,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.